25 Moments in 25 Years

25 years of Timberwolves basketball!

25 years of Timberwolves basketball!

The 2013/14 NBA season is a time to celebrate for Minnesota Timberwolves fans, as the franchise is celebrating their silvery anniversary in the NBA.  I wanted to celebrate these 25 years with 25 special moments from the franchise’s history.  Are you ready for this?  Let’s get started with the countdown … because everything in the world today has to be done via countdown and ranking apparently.

(Quick note: YouTube clips are also hyperlinks below and will open in a separate window.)

#25 – 2008 NBA Draft night trade that yields Kevin Love for the Wolves

While I still would have demanded a PG (Lowry, it worked within the cap) in the trade, the Wolves traded OJ Mayo to the Memphis Grizzlies for Kevin Love with other pieces all around.  This trade would have been ranked higher if Mike Miller didn’t stink up the Target Center for two seasons.

#24 – Isaiah Rider’s circus shot in Sacramento

Preface: I loved Rider.  There, I said it.  You’ll see him again in this countdown.  This shot was on national TV and I talked about it for two days in school.  Have a look.

#23 – One of two 2nd round draft gems: Nikola Pekovic

Perhaps for the 30 year anniversary, this is ranked a bit higher.  You know how (12 adjectives worse than…) bad the franchise’s draft history is.  This pick also wasn’t too much of a “find” for McHale, as Pekovic was a 1st round talent that teams knew wasn’t coming over for a few years and the team swooped him up as the first pick of the 2nd round in 2008.

#22 – Two of two 2nd round draft gems: Doug West

In the franchise’s first draft (1989), the team wound up with a pretty decent backcourt consisting of Pooh Richardson and Doug West.  While his career got off to a slow start, West did overtake Tony Campbell as the franchise’s leading scorer for a while and had several solid seasons for the club.

#21 – 1992 Slam Dunk Contest w/ West

We really won’t talk too much about the early days and for good reason; Doug West simply appearing in the Slam Dunk Contest is a top 25 moment in franchise history.  Around the 8:45 mark of the clip below you will find the start of West’s performance.  However, you’ll miss Grandmama, Plastic Man, and Shawn Kemp if you skip ahead.  (In other words, watch the whole thing!)

#20 – Ricky Rubio’s first triple-double

Any time a Pup throws up a triple-double against the Spurs, you have my attention.  But when the Unicorn does so in spectacular fashion, it is a top moment for the franchise.

#19 – 2009 NBA Draft – Hello Ricky!

David Kahn somehow convinced the Washington Wizards to give up the 5th pick of the draft for Randy Foye and Mike Miller.  Sure, we picked up Stewie Griffin and a few other spare pieces, but the Wolves were able to land Ricky Rubio with the pick and the rest will become history.

Let’s forget about the 2009 draft in its entirety though: Point Guard-apolooza, Kevin Love’s “What are we doing?!?!?!” tweet, etc.  It never happened, OK?

#18 – Timberwolves fire David Kahn

Yep, this is a franchise highlight.  We’ve covered off on the 2009 draft, but we didn’t mention the selection of Wes Johnson the following year – the worst draft pick in the history of the Timberwolves.  Trust me, I’ve been watching this unfold for a long time.  There were none worse.  Throw in trying to freeze Kevin Love out of Minnesota and you have a train wreck for the ages that needed to be fixed.

#17 – Timberwolves hire Rick Adelman

Where Kahn deserves an iota of credit is in the hiring of Rick Adelman, by far the greatest basketball mind to ever grace the sidelines of the Metrodome or Target Center 41 times a season.

#16 – Isaiah Rider blocks Patrick Ewing

Earlier I mentioned talking about Rider’s shot in Sacramento for two days.  Being from the NY area, this play allowed me a full week of gloating in high school.  This was AWESOME

#15 – “Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, … Winner!” – The Timberwolves select Christian Laettner in the 1992 NBA Draft

Look, everyone will focus on the negative: we missed out on Shaq and Zo, Laettner was a locker room cancer (as referenced above perhaps?), that he wasn’t around for the long term, etc.  All of this is valid.  However, where would I be without the Wolves selecting Laettner in 1992?  I can assure you that I wouldn’t be writing for a Wolves blog.

As I started to hone in on the NBA around 5th-6th grade, the franchise came into existence.  That was a nice way for me to get a fresh start on a new NBA team.  What distinguished the Wolves over the three other new teams?  1. Team colors and 2. My dad was making business trips to the area every month and could bring home souvenirs.  Relatively sold, but not completely …

What took my fandom to the next level?  “With the third pick of the NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select … Christian Laettner from Duke University” – Stern, David.  How is this for a history lesson?

There is one more thing I want to cover here, completely realizing that I’ve already spent too much time on #15 in this list.  How is this locker room speech not more popular than Derrick Coleman’s “Whoopty-damn-doo”?  I mean, this should really be closer to Iverson’s “We talkin’ ‘bout practice?!  Not a game, not a game, but practice!”  Honestly, this can be used in so many aspects of life, at the very least in Minnesota.  Example: imagine giving the “Loser, Loser … Winner” speech for any of the following:

  1. Leaving a board meeting
  2. Quitting a job
  3. Leaving the bar
  4. Exiting a holiday house party
  5. Deflecting blame when caught by multiple boy/girl-friends

Seriously, this needs to become a more acceptable way of living your life.  Do it!  Vine it!  I will pay you at least $1.

#14 – Final home game of 1990 at the Metrodome

The third largest NBA crowd (49,551) packed the Metrodome for the last home game of the inaugural, 89/90 season.  The Wolves drew over 1 million fans into the stadium for the season!

#13 – First Franchise Win – 11/10/89

It took four tries and overtime, but the Timberwolves earned their first win in franchise history on 11/10/89 against the Philadelphia 76ers, 125-118.  Tony Campbell and Tyrone Corbin = Monsters!

#12 – Michael Williams Free Throw Record

What better way to get a jolt through your body than covering off on one of the few places you will find a Pup in the record books?  In 1993, the PG broke the record for the most FT’s hit in a row, finally ending the streak at 97.  (More fun facts on free throws)

#11 – Kevin Love’s double-double streak

Continuing a run of streaks (ba-da-bum) there aren’t many more impressive performances compared to the 53 games in a row in which Love put up a double-double.  From November 2010 through March 2011, Love poured it on night in and night out.  However, the run came to an end against the Warriors.   Oddly enough, the streak ended because Love only scored 6 points in a blowout loss.

#10 – A double overtime loss to OKC – 3/23/12

Wow, a loss winds up being a top moment in franchise history.  Why?  This is my list and I’ll do as I please.  This is the best regular season game I can remember.  From the opponent’s side, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook each went for 40+ points.  JJ Barea put up a triple double.  Kevin Love put up a modest 51 and 14.  This game was spectacular … including Wesley Johnson’s 0-1, 0 points effort.  Have I talked about him before?

#9 – Glen Taylor saves the Timberwolves

Say what you will about Taylor, and you have/will, but he saved this franchise back in 1995.  With the owners looking to sell the team to a group down in New Orleans, Taylor swooped in to purchase the club and leaving it in the Twin Cities.

#8 – Timberwolves retire Malik Sealy’s jersey

I debated whether or not this belonged in the countdown because the reasons that led to the jersey retirement suck, but also thought it might provide some perspective for some of the younger fans as to why the #2 hangs in the rafters.  We covered this tragedy in a VOTW last year.

(I’m still surprised that the entire halftime ceremony isn’t on YouTube.)

#7 – The original Big Three?  KG, Marbury, and Gugliotta

A second VOTW of focus in the top 10 … of course!  Before he ate a jar of Vaseline on YouTube, Stephon Marbury was a phenomenal addition to the KG-led Wolves.  Therein lied the problem, it was KG’s team and ‘Starbury’ wanted nothing to do with that.  Naturally, before a resolution could be found there, Tom Gugliotta decided that he had enough and went to greener pastures.  But before all of this … these three were awesome!  (Where are my Tums?!)

#6 – 1997 – Playoffs?  Playoffs?!  You kidding me?!

It took a while, but the Timberwolves made their first trip to the playoffs in 1997.  The team was quickly swept off the floor by the Rockets … but still … progress!

#5 – KG leads the Timberwolves in … everything in ‘02/’03

For just the third time in NBA history, a player led his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks for the season.  KG was good.

#4 – Kevin Love’s 30/30 game against the Knicks

The only reason this is #4 and KG’s season above is listed at #5 is because it was against the Knicks.  I’ve never claimed to be fair or unbiased.  Early on in the 2010 season, Kevin Love went off … way off … on the Knicks, to the tune of 31 points and 31 rebounds.  I don’t think this needs any further description.

#3 – The ‘East Bay Funk Dunk’

The NBA All-Star Weekend came to Minneapolis in 1994 and Isaiah Rider stole the show, winning the Slam Dunk Contest with his ‘East Bay Funk Dunk’.  A crowning achievement for the franchise who had yet to make the playoffs.  This too was awesome!

#2 – The 2004 Playoffs

Since 1989, the Timberwolves were the team to beat in the NBA exactly once, in ‘03/’04.  Everything was in place for a deep playoff run and more.  The team disposed of the Nuggets rather easily and then had an epic battle against the Kings.  KG jumping on the top of the scorer’s table after game 7 anyone?!  I still remember these series and locking myself in my Hoboken apartment.  With the great, however, came the ultimate disappointment in that Sam Cassell’s injured hip was not going to make a miraculous recovery for the series against the Lakers.  The Wolves didn’t have enough to compete with Shaq and Kobe.

However, if Sam was healthy, this team was going to the Finals and winning it all.  That injury still haunts me.  That injury also prevents the ‘03/’04 season from being #1 on this list.  If the team had at least the Conference Championship, it would be #1.  Alas …

#1 – The 1995 Draft

Before he was “The Big Ticket”, he was “The Kid”.  The Timberwolves selected KG with the 5th pick of the 1995 draft and the franchise was altered for a decade (and you could argue more, but we won’t).  There isn’t anything to say about KG that won’t ruin a future post about his career.  KG provided more than enough memories.  I rarely care about a player when they leave one of my favorite teams.  I became a Celtics fan so that KG could get a ring.  Best of luck to “The Kid” this season in Brooklyn and quite simply, “Thank you!”

So there you have it, 25 memories from 25 years of Timberwolves basketball.  What moments stick out the most to you?

Pups Cut From Pack

Today the Timberpups released Lorenzo Brown and Othyus Jeffers, the roster is down to 16 players — the team must cut to 15 by 4:00PM CST on Monday.

Brown was the Wolves second-round draft selection out of North Carolina State University. He missed only two games during his final season at North Carolina State where he averaged just over seven assists and was the primary facilitator in the Wolfpack’s offense. He averaged 19.2 minutes per game in LVSL, shot 50 percent from 3pt-range, 38 percent from the field and his 2.2 assists per game were negated by his per game average of 1.8 turnovers. Brown averaged 12.6mpg in three preseason games; averaging 4 points 1 rebound and 1 assist. His future remains bright, Brown is 23 years old and it’s likely we’ll see him playing in the NBA down the road.

The decision to cut Jeffers was not as clear-cut.

He entered the league undrafted despite averaging 24 points and 11 rebounds a game at Robert Morris University. Selected by the Iowa Energy in the 2008-09 D-League draft; Jeffers averaged 20 points and 9 rebounds per game and was named the NBADL Rookie of the Year. Jeffers had a team-high 13 points in the Wolves 98-89 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, shooting 5-of-9 from the field and tallying 6 rebounds.

 

The cuts mean there’s two places left for the taking, either Robbie Hummel, A.J. Price or Chris Johnson will be cut by Monday.

Chris Johnson has played the least this preseason and the Wolves signing him to a contract was the final move made by former President of Operations — David Kahn.

This leaves Price and Hummel as the players the Pups will retain going into the season. Hummel started the game at small forward Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers and is averaging 15 minutes in his four appearances this preseason. He’s tall, lanky and was the fan favorite going into Las Vegas Summer League as we told you earlier this summer.

Price will act as an insurance policy at point guard. If Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved or J.J. Barea are to miss time due to injury this season *knocks on wood*, Price can step in and as a temporary and serviceable alternative — if an injury to the aforementioned three is a significant one; the Wolves should look to improve at PG through the free agent market or by trade.

 

Changes in the Twolves Staff

Back in charge ... (Photo credit: Star Tribune)

Back in charge …
(Photo credit: Star Tribune)

To say this offseason has been a busy one for the Timberwolves would be a bit of an understatement.  However, it hasn’t just been the roster and the guys that will taking to the Target Center floor in a few weeks.  The Pups front office and coaching staff has also seen a bevy of changes take place, all starting with the firing of David Kahn and the hiring (and return) of Flip Saunders as the team’s new President of Basketball Operations.

Since the return of Flip, the news hasn’t really slowed down.  Days after being hired in May, Flip fired Pete Philo, the Wolves international scouting coordinator, along with Curtis Crawford and Will Conroy.  Conroy, of course, was Brandon Roy’s best friend that David Kahn gave a contract to prior to last season.  Crawford was an actual scout for the team.

Opinion: Given the lack of overall success in the franchise’s draft history and ability to find many hidden gems overseas, this was a good starting point for the team.  Hopefully, Glen Taylor and Flip use the appropriate amount of resources to maximize the potential of hitting a home run in the future through the appropriate scouting channels.

In July, the Pups probably saw their biggest loss to date this offseason, when Bill Bayno decided to leave the coaching staff to become the right hand man for Dwane Casey in Toronto.

Opinion: Bayno seemed to have a real strong rapport with the roster the past two years and was always well regarded by others online and in the media.  While it is being reported that this had nothing to do with money, I wish the Wolves would have countered with … something.  I would feel much better with Bill Bayno waiting behind Rick Adelman (more on this in a bit) vs. Terry Porter and others.

A little over one week ago, Flip Saunders named Milt Newton the new General Manager of the Timberwolves.  Milt and Flip were together in Washington and seem to have a mutual respect for one another.  By most, if not all accords, the hiring of Milt puts another voice in the room for personnel decisions, but he will not have the final say on those decisions, as that will remain with Flip.

Opinion: This announcement had been rumored for weeks and I have to say that I’m a little skeptical.  There continues to be this overriding theme of staying in your respective comfort zone when Glen Taylor and Flip are doing the hiring.  It isn’t like the Wizards were the gold (or bronze) standard of the NBA during Milt’s tenure.  All of that said, this tweet from Jon Krawczynski pretty much says it all:

 

With Bayno gone, the coaching staff needed to be tinkered with and earlier this week, the Wolves made several expected moves official, naming David Adelman as an Assistant Coach and hiring Bobby Jackson as Player Development Coach.  The latter signaled the end of Shawn Respert’s tenure with the Pups in the same position.

Opinion: The official hiring of the younger Adelman wasn’t a surprise to anyone.  In fact, it makes me feel a lot better about the return of his father (still a few minutes away, patience please) to the sidelines.  David coached the Wolves Summer League team in Las Vegas.  I’m a little surprised about the shift from Shawn Respert to Bobby Jackson and have a real hard time believing this isn’t part of the aforementioned “comfort zone”.  Respert seemed to be well respected in the locker room and by the local media.  Jackson, of course, is a former Golden Gopher icon and PG for the Pups.

As hinted at several times above, there is one name missing from the official newswire and he is the most important part: Coach Rick Adelman.  While everyone assumes he will be back to lead the Wolves next season, I’m just a little anxious that it hasn’t been made official.  Adelman truly is the glue to this franchise right now.  Look at the free agent signings, they all have Adelman’s fingerprints on them.  Look at the attempt to repair the relationship with Kevin Love.  Same overarching thought.  This team needs Rick Adelman on the sidelines to maximize its potential this coming season.

Here’s to hoping that announcement comes soon.  Like, today or tomorrow.  Let’s go Wolves!

Flip Saunders to Become Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations

Washington Wizards v Atlanta HawksFollowing a tumultuous four seasons for David Kahn as president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, owner Glen Taylor has decided against exercising Kahn’s team option for the 2013-14 season thus ending his tenure with the organization. The now infamous Kahn has been the pin of jokes throughout the basketball community due to his disastrous job drafting, but let us not forget that the man was able to strike gold on franchise cornerstone Ricky Rubio and even helped to bring Rick Adelman to Minnesota and should be given credit where it is due.

Although Kahn was able to reshape the team’s roster and helped to bring excitement back to the state’s NBA team, his misfirings in the draft severely cost the organization. In 2009, Kahn drafted Jonny Flynn sixth overall over the likes of Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings and DeMar DeRozan, and drafted Ty Lawson with the eighteenth pick in the same draft, only to trade him for a future first-round selection which was ultimately traded for Martell Webster. Stephen Curry set the all-time record for three-pointers made in a season this year, and Lawson has become a fringe All-Star point guard leading the Denver Nuggets. [Read more...]

Starting at Center, Number 16, Pau Gaasoollllll!?

Surprise surprise, rumors are swirling again that the Los Angeles Lakers are looking to move starting PF Pau Gasol. The 32 year old Spaniard is again the victim of the Lakers early season struggles. This season for the Lakers has been one of big dreams and mass blame. Early on it was Mike Brown, who in reality should never have been chosen over Rick Adelman in the first place. Brown got the quick axe and now it looks to be the once loved Lakers big man who is getting the LA “Death Stare”.

Thus far Gasol has registered a career low 12.6 PPG while shooting .420 percent from the floor. The rest of his game seems to be around his career average with 8.8 RPG and a respectable 3.5 APG. But with the unsatisfactory drop from his Laker average 18.4PPG, it is easy to put a target on the 7’0” big man. Unfortunately for Pau, his surroundings seem to be his downfall. He is on one of the most covered and decorated sports franchises of all time, playing with one of the greatest NBA players of all time and is once again paired with a post player who is taking Pau’s touches , looks, and space in the paint. Granted Pau can hit it from anywhere within 18 feet, he needs to be fed the ball down low. I don’t know if the Lakers forgot, but Pau Gasol has one of the best jump hooks in the league today, and not to mention he can do it with either hand! But so can Dwight Howard right………..? [Read more...]

Greg Stiemsma Timberwolves Press Conference Notes

On Thursday, the Timberwolves introduced yet another free agent signing as they introduced new backup center Greg Stiemsma. The contract is for two years and approximately $2.6 million, with the first year being guaranteed. To view the entire press conference you can watch it here, otherwise here are some notes and thoughts about Thursday’s proceedings.

  • Stiemsma will be wearing jersey number 34. He had previously been with the Timberwolves D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, during the 2009-10 season, and played professional stints in Turkey, South Korea, and most recently for the Boston Celtics last season. This season he became a significant rotation player for the Celtics while gaining valuable playoff experience.
  • The “Stiemer” brings a shot-blocking ability that the Wolves so notably lacked last season. Stiemsma was second in the league in blocks per minute this past season, second only to Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka.
  • Stiemsma explained that he is very excited to be back in Minneapolis, and mentioned how much the organization has grown since last time he was here. A Randolph, Wisconsin native, Stiemsma played four years for the University of Wisconsin and is only a three and a half hour drive away from Minneapolis. He said that it feels good to be close to home and close to where he played college basketball, and he looks to play a similar role of consistency on defense that he did for Boston and to be a “presence inside” for the Wolves.
  • David Kahn explained how Stiemsma was the only free agent who was meeting with the Timberwolves who drove, not flew, to Minneapolis for free agent visits.
  • Stiemsma was very thankful and complimentary of the Celtics organization, players, and coaching staff. He learned a lot through the playoff run with the Celtics, and explained how tough you have to be mentally to play in a seven game series, and how you “have to bring it every possession.”
  • When asked about how it feels to be pursued by NBA teams in free agency after previously failing to make NBA rosters, he stated, “it feels good to be wanted” and “it feels good to have your hard work pay off.”
  • Although he was invited to play for the US Select Team this summer, he chose not to play as he had been recovering from Plantar Fasciitis in his left foot, and he deferred playing with the team with long-term NBA goals in mind. He stated that he has been cranking it up in the weight room the last few weeks, and has not felt limited in workouts at all.
  • A very interesting thing that Stiemsma talked about was the importance of Kevin Garnett in his development as a player during his sole season for the Celtics. He said that “KG was great for me” and “more or less took me under his wing.” Stiemsma explained that KG was “always willing to teach” and “always willing to explain things.”
  • “Minneapolis was not a hard sell for me.”

Photo Credits: NBAE/Getty Images

How Andrei Kirilenko Transforms the Timberwolves Into a Playoff Team

Yesterday, on a phone teleconference, Wolves GM David Kahn officially announced the signing of former Utah Jazz standout Andrei Kirilenko to a two-year, $20 million pact after previously missing out on top free agent target Nicolas Batum. Kirilenko, 31, played this most recent season for CKSA Moscow following a decade of play for Utah. During his sole season with the Russian club, Kirilenko earned Euroleague MVP and top defender honors, demonstrating that he has not lost a step and is clearly still an elite defender as well as a polished all around player. As a former three-time NBA All-Star and three-time All-NBA defender, Kirilenko brings a little bit of everything to a Wolves frontcourt that has been previously plagued by the play of now former Wolves Wes Johnson and Michael Beasley.

In order to free up the necessary cap space to sign AK-47, the Timberwolves sent now official draft bust Wes Johnson and a future first-round draft pick to Phoenix in a three team trade that also involved the New Orleans Hornets. As a part of the trade, Minnesota received three future second-round draft choices but most importantly, the cap space to sign the Russian superstar. Wes Johnson had a tumultuous two year career with the Timberwolves and failed to even remotely live up to the hype of being selected 4th overall in the 2010 draft, while being selected in front of the likes of Demarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, and Paul George, among others. Johnson comes off as having very unstable confidence and his dribbling skills remain unacceptable for an NBA small forward, and as he is now 25-years-old he can no longer be looked at as simply a high upside prospect. The former Syracuse star now joins fellow former Timberwolf Micheal Beasley in Phoenix in what will most likely be a rebuilding year for the Steve Nash-less Suns.
[Read more...]